The hour-long, region-wide power outage experienced Sunday, Aug. 19 in both Wrangell and Petersburg was due to rifle shots into an insulator on one of the main power delivery towers on Wrangell’s backchannel.
According to Thomas Bay Power Authority General Manager Paul Southland, the rifle shots into the insulator core were no accident.
“The SEAPA helicopter crew found the fault early Monday morning,” Southland said. “The insulator on the tower had been shot multiple times, so it wasn't an accident.”
Repairs were made on Tuesday, Aug. 21, and hydropower was restored at approximately 8 p.m. that evening.
Authorities with Petersburg Municipal Power and Light and Thomas Bay Power Authority said they have been working together to estimate the cost of this outage for the residents of both communities.
“We have a rough estimate totaling $125,000 to $150,000 for the time running the diesel generators,” Southland said. “Fuel costs and manpower for Petersburg comes in at $50,000 to $55,000 and Wrangell totals $55,000 to $60,000 and repair costs adding an additional $35,000 to $55,000.”
Southland also explained that the cost of an act such as this is measured in gallons of diesel fuel.
“We are fortunate that we had the parts to make the repairs on-hand,” Southland stated. “If we had to order any of the parts it could have been days or even weeks before repairs were made.”
SEAPA called in a crew from Chatham Electric of Juneau to make the repairs.
Wrangell police are in the process of recovering the artillery-peppered insulator as evidence and are investigating the incident.
“The cost to the community is high in situations like this, and we’re going to investigate it fully,” added Wrangell Police Chief Doug McCloskey. “I also anticipate a reward for info leading to an arrest in this case.”
Southland added that actions like this, even when an accident, are costly to all residents.
“I would like to stress to the public that something like this will cost power customers in both communities,” Southland stated. “Be aware and careful of your surroundings when shooting anywhere on the island.”